Area Codes -- Area codes in Ireland range from one number (the Dublin area code is “1”) to three. Area codes are included in all listings in this guide. Within Ireland, you dial 0 before the area code. Outside of Ireland, however, you do not dial 0 before the area code.
Business Hours -- Banks are generally open 10am to 4pm Monday to Wednesday and Friday and 10am to 5pm on Thursday. Post offices (also known as An Post) are generally open from 9am to 5:30pm Monday to Friday and 9am to 1:30pm on Saturday. Some take an hour for lunch from 1 to 2pm, and small or rural branches may close on Saturday. Museums and sights are generally open 10am to 5pm Tuesday to Saturday and 2 to 5pm on Sunday. Shops generally open 9am to 6pm Monday to Saturday with late opening on Thursday until 7 or 8pm. Most shops in larger towns and cities will also open on Sundays (typically from late morning to late afternoon). Major shops, such as department stores, often stay open much later than other businesses.
Cellphones -- See “Mobile Phones,” below.
Disabled Travelers -- For disabled travelers, Ireland is a mixed bag. Its modern buildings and cities are generally accessible, but many of its buildings are historic, and those often lack wheelchair access. Trains can be accessed by wheelchairs but only with assistance. If you plan to travel by train in Ireland, check out Iarnród Éireann’s website (www.irishrail.ie), which includes services for travelers with disabilities.
Finding accessible lodging can be tricky in Ireland. Many buildings here are hundreds of years old, and older hotels, small guesthouses, and landmark buildings still have steps outside and in. The rule of thumb should be: Never assume that a B&B, hotel, or restaurant has accessible facilities—ask about your requirements before booking. To research options prior to your trip, one excellent online resource is www.disability.ie. For advice on travel to Northern Ireland, contact Disability Action (www.disabilityaction.org; 028/9029-7880). The Northern Ireland Tourist Board also publishes a helpful annual Information Guide to Accessible Accommodation, available from any of its offices worldwide.
Doctors -- Healthcare in Ireland is comparable to that in other European nations. In the Irish system, private doctors and hospitals provide care and patients purchase healthcare insurance.
Drinking Laws -- The minimum legal age to buy alcohol in Ireland is 18. Children under 18 are allowed in pubs until 9pm, or 10pm from May to September, so long as they’re with their parents or guardians. (In practice, pubs serving food often have separate dining areas, which can accommodate children later.) Pubs are allowed to stay open until 11:30pm during the week, and around 12:30am on weekends, though some have licenses that allow them to stay open later. Many pubs choose to close earlier on Sundays. These times are roughly comparable in Northern Ireland.
Restaurants can serve alcohol to diners if they have a liquor license (restaurants with no liquor license may allow you to bring your own alcoholic beverages—we state in our restaurant listings if this is the case). Alcohol is for sale at dedicated liquor stores (or “Off Licenses”), in addition to supermarkets and convenience stores. Important note: Drunk driving laws in Ireland are very strict. Even a single pint of beer could be enough to put you over the limit. If you’re arrested for drunk driving, penalties range from a hefty fine to jail time. Rules in Northern Ireland are even more severe. The safest way is simply not to drink and drive.
Electricity -- The Irish electric system operates on 220 volts with a large plug bearing three rectangular prongs. The Northern Irish system operates on 250 volts with a similar plug. To use standard American 110-volt appliances, you’ll need both a transformer and a plug adapter. Most new laptops have built-in transformers, but some do not, so beware.
Embassies & Consulates -- The American Embassy is at 42 Elgin Rd., Ballsbridge, Dublin 4 (dublin.usembassy.gov; 01/668-8777); the Canadian Embassy is at 7–8 Wilton Terrace, 3rd floor, Dublin 2 (www.canadainternational.gc.ca/ireland-irlande; 01/234-4000); the British Embassy is at 29 Merrion Rd., Dublin 2 (www.gov.uk/government/world/organisations/british-embassy-dublin; 01/205-3700); and the Australian Embassy is at Fitzwilton House, 7 floor, Wilton Terrace, Dublin 2 (www.ireland.embassy.gov.au; 01/664-5300). In Northern Ireland, there’s an American Consulate at Danesfort House, 223 Stranmillis Rd., Belfast BT9 5GR (belfast.usconsulate.gov; 028/9038-6100).
Emergencies -- For the Garda (police), fire, ambulance, or other emergencies, dial 999.
Family Travel -- Recommended family travel websites include Family Travel Forum (www.myfamilytravels.com), Family Travel Network (www.familytravelnetwork.com), Traveling Internationally with Your Kids (www.travelwithyourkids.com), and Family Travel Files (www.thefamilytravelfiles.com).
Internet & Wi-Fi -- Wi-Fi is widespread in Irish hotels and B&Bs, even in rural areas. It’s not universal, however. Most B&Bs and smaller hotels provide it free, but larger hotels sometimes charge for access.
Language -- Ireland has two official languages: English and Gaelic (which is also known as Irish). All native Irish people can speak English. There is a strong national movement to preserve and expand the language, so areas of the country where Gaelic is protected and promoted are known as Gaeltacht. Gaelic is a complex and ancient language that you will not be able to figure out on your own; ask for help (in English) if you get lost. Despite the government’s best hopes, everybody in the Gaeltacht regions speaks English.
LGBT Travelers -- Homosexuality was legalized in Ireland in 1993 (1982 in the North), and same-sex marriages were ratified in the Republic in 2015. Nevertheless, gay and lesbian visitors should be aware that this is still a conservative country. Cities like Dublin and Galway are far more liberal in their attitudes (particularly among the younger generation) but it’s a good idea to proceed with caution when traveling in rural areas. Recommended websites for gay and lesbian travelers include Gay Ireland (www.gay-ireland.com) and Outhouse (www.outhouse.ie).
Lost Property -- If your passport is lost or stolen, contact your country’s embassy immediately. Be sure to tell all of your credit card companies the minute you discover that your wallet is gone and file a report at the nearest police station.
Mail -- In Ireland, mailboxes are painted green with the word post on top. In Northern Ireland, they are painted red with a royal coat of arms. From the Republic, an airmail letter or postcard to any other country outside Europe, not exceeding 50 grams, costs €1.10. From Northern Ireland to Europe, airmail letters not exceeding 20 grams cost €1.05.
Mobile Phones -- Before you leave your home country, check directly with your mobile phone provider to find out about using your phone overseas. You may have to ask for the “international roaming” capability to be switched on before you’re overseas.
Unfortunately, using your own phone in Ireland could prove very expensive. Most mobile phone companies charge very large premiums on call charges made while abroad. If you use a smartphone, such as an iPhone or Android, turn off features such as location services and push notifications, or you could face enormous data roaming charges. Always use Wi-Fi if you need to download anything.
Some travelers prefer to rent a phone for their trip to Ireland. You can do this from any number of overseas sites; several Irish phone companies have kiosks at the main airports, and car-rental agencies can usually rent you a phone for the duration of your stay.
Another option is to purchase a disposable pay-as-you-go phone. Disposable phones aren’t quite as big here as in some countries, due to the relatively low cost of phone contracts; however, you can buy them quite cheaply from mobile phone stores (most airports and any town of reasonable size will have one).
Call charges in Ireland, and across the European Union, are much lower than they are in many other parts of the world, including the U.S; on pay-as-you-go, expect to pay around €0.35 per minute. You are not charged for incoming calls.
Money -- The Republic of Ireland uses the European currency known as the euro (€). Euro notes come in denominations of €5, €10, €20, €50, €100, €200, and €500. The euro is divided into 100 cents; coins come in denominations of €2, €1, 50¢, 20¢, 10¢, 5¢, 2¢, and 1¢.
As part of the United Kingdom, Northern Ireland uses the British pound sterling (£). Notes come in denominations of £5, £10, £20, £50, and £100. Coins are issued in £2, £1, 50p, 20p, 10p, 5p, 2p, and 1p denominations.
The British pound is not accepted in the Republic, and the euro is not accepted in the North—if you’re traveling in both parts of Ireland you’ll need some of both currencies, although shops on the border tend to accept both. Note that pounds issued in Northern Ireland, while legal tender in Great Britain, actually look different. You may find that cabdrivers and small business owners in the North won’t accept bills issued in Great Britain, and vice-versa. In that case, you can change the money into locally issued versions at any large central bank, free of charge.
Note for international travelers: Exchange rates can fluctuate wildly in the space of just a few weeks; before departing consult a currency exchange website such as www.xe.com to check up-to-the-minute rates.
When it comes to obtaining foreign currency, please, skip the currency exchange kiosks in airports, train stations, and elsewhere. They give the poorest rates and charge exorbitant fees. Instead, order a small amount of foreign currency from your bank before leaving home, and then use your debit card for the duration of your trip. ATMs (in Ireland also called “cash machines” or “cash points”) will give you a favorable rate, and you can withdraw however much cash you need for a day or so. The Cirrus and Plus ATM networks span the globe; look at the back of your bankcard to see which network you’re on. Before you depart, be sure you know your personal identification number (PIN) and daily withdrawal limit. Confirm with your bank that your PIN will work in Europe, and be sure to let them know the dates and destinations to which you’re traveling—you don’t want to find your card frozen while you’re abroad!
Credit cards are accepted just about everywhere, save street markets, small independent retailers, street-food vendors, and occasional small or family-owned businesses. However, North American visitors should note that American Express is accepted far less widely than at home, and Diners Club only at the most highflying establishments. To be sure of your credit line, bring a Visa or MasterCard as well.
Many retailers ask for your 4-digit PIN to be entered into a keypad near the cash register. In restaurants, a server might bring a hand-held device to your table to authorize payment. If you’re visiting from a country (such as the U.S.), where Chip and PIN are less prevalent, some retailers may be reluctant to accept swipe cards. Be prepared to argue your case: Swipe cards are still valid and the same machines that read the smartcard chips can also read your magnetic strip. (Still, carry some cash with you, just in case.)
Passports -- See “Embassies & Consulates,” for whom to contact if you lose yours while traveling in Ireland. For country-specific information, please contact the following agencies:
For Residents of Australia -- Contact the Australian Passport Information Service (www.passports.gov.au; 131-232).
For Residents of Canada -- Contact the central Passport Office, Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade, Ottawa, ON K1A 0G3 (www.ppt.gc.ca; 800/567-6868).
For Residents of New Zealand -- Contact the Passports Office, Department of Internal Affairs (www.passports.govt.nz; 0800/225-050 in New Zealand or 04/463-9360).
For Residents of the United Kingdom -- Visit your nearest passport office, major post office, or travel agency or contact the United Kingdom Passport Service (www.gov.uk/government/organisations/hm-passport-office; 0300/222-0000).
For Residents of the United States -- To find your regional passport office, either check the U.S. State Department website (www.state.gov) or call the National Passport Information Center toll-free number (877/487-2778) for automated information.
Pharmacies -- Drugstores are called “chemists” and are found in every city, town, and most villages of any size.
Police -- In the Republic of Ireland, a law enforcement officer is called a Garda, a member of the Garda Síochána ("Guardian of the Peace"); in the plural, it's Gardaí (pronounced Gar-dee) or simply "the Guards." Dial 999 to reach the Gardaí in an emergency. Except for special detachments, Irish police are unarmed and wear dark blue uniforms. In Northern Ireland you can also reach the police by dialing 999.
Safety -- By U.S. standards, Ireland is very safe, but, particularly in the cities, it’s not safe enough to warrant carelessness. Be wary of the usual tourists’ plagues: pickpockets, purse snatchers, and car thieves. Do not leave cars unlocked or cameras and other expensive equipment unattended. Ask at your hotel which areas are safe and which are not. Take a taxi back to your hotel if you’re out very late.
In Northern Ireland, safety has to be a somewhat greater concern. Violence is no longer commonplace, and your visit here should be every bit as safe as in the rest of Ireland. However, occasional flare-ups do happen, especially during the Orange marching season in the late summer. Visitors rarely have problems with this because they are not the targets of unrest. Still, keep abreast of things by reading or watching the news.
Senior Travel -- In Ireland, seniors are referred to as “O.A.P.’s” (short for “Old Age Pensioners”). People over age 60 often qualify for reduced admission to museums and other attractions. Always ask about an O.A.P. discount if special rates aren’t posted. Discover Ireland can offer advice on how to find the best discounts.
Smoking -- Ireland and Northern Ireland both have broad antismoking laws that ban smoking in all public places, including bars, restaurants, and hotel lobbies. However, most restaurants and pubs have covered outdoor smoking areas.
Taxes -- As in many European countries, sales tax (VAT, or value-added tax) is often already included in the price shown on price tags. In the Republic, VAT rates vary—for hotels, restaurants, and car rentals, it is 13.5%; for souvenirs and gifts, it is 23%. In Northern Ireland, the VAT is 20% across the board. VAT charged on services such as hotel stays, meals, car rentals, and entertainment cannot be refunded to visitors, but the VAT on products such as souvenirs is refundable. Save your receipts and present them at the Global Refund Desk when you get to the airport (they’re located airside in the main terminals at Dublin and Shannon; in Dublin the desk is now an automated kiosk, located on the left just after you pass the Starbucks on the way to the departure gates). They can usually issue you a refund there and then. Some larger stores can issue you with a Global Refund form and refund your VAT themselves, although you’ll need to know your passport number, flight number, and departure time. In practice, this is usually much more fuss than it’s worth.
Telephones -- In the Republic, the telephone system is known as Eircom; in Northern Ireland, it's BT (British Telecom). Every effort has been made to ensure that the numbers and information in this guide are accurate at the time of writing.
Overseas calls from Ireland can be quite costly, whether you use a local phone card or your own calling card.
To call Ireland from home:
1. Dial the international access code: 011 from the U.S., 00 from the U.K., 0011 from Australia, or 0170 from New Zealand.
2. Dial the country code: 353 for the Republic, 44 for the North.
3. Dial the local number, remembering to omit the initial 0, which is for use only within Ireland (for example, to call the County Kerry number 066/12345 from the United States, you’d dial 011-353-66/12345).
To make international calls from Ireland: First dial 00, then the country code (U.S. or Canada 1, U.K. 44, Australia 61, New Zealand 64). Next you dial the area code and local number. For example, to call the U.S. number 212/000-0000 you’d dial 00-1-212/000-0000. The toll-free international access code for AT&T is 1-800-550-000; for Sprint it’s 1-800-552001; and for MCI it’s 1-800-551-001.
To make local calls: To dial a local number within the same area code, drop the initial 0. To dial a number within Ireland but in a different area code, use the initial 0.
As in many parts of the world, phone booths are slowly disappearing. Calls from a phone booth usually require coin payment, but at some you need a calling card (in the Republic) or phone card (in the North)—prepaid computerized cards that you insert into the phone instead of coins. They can be purchased in post offices, grocery stores, and shops (such as newsstands).
Time -- Ireland follows Greenwich Mean Time from November to March, and British Summer Time from April to October. Ireland is 5 hours ahead of the eastern United States. Ireland's latitude makes for longer days and shorter nights in the summer and the reverse in the winter. In June, the sun doesn’t fully set until around 11pm, but in December, it is dark by 4pm.
Tipping -- For taxi drivers, hairdressers, and other providers of service, tip an average of 10 to 15%. For restaurants, the policy is usually printed on the menu—either a gratuity of 10 to 15% is automatically added to your bill, or it’s left up to you. As a rule, bartenders do not expect a tip, except when table service is provided.
Toilets -- Public toilets are usually simply called "toilets" or are marked with international symbols. In the Republic of Ireland, some of the older ones carry the Gaelic words FIR (men) and MNA (women). Free restrooms are usually available to customers at sightseeing attractions, museums, hotels, restaurants, pubs, shops, and theaters. Many gas stations (called “petrol stations” in Ireland) have public toilets, and a few even have baby-changing facilities.
Visas -- Citizens of the United States, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand entering the Republic of Ireland or Northern Ireland for a stay of up to 3 months do not need a visa, but a valid passport is required. For citizens of the United Kingdom, when traveling on flights originating in Britain, the same rules apply as they would for travel to any other member state of the European Union (E.U.).
Water -- Tap water throughout the island of Ireland is generally safe. However, some areas in the west of Ireland have been battling with out-of-date water-purification systems. Always carry a large bottle of water with you.
Wi-Fi -- See “Internet & Wi-Fi,” earlier in this section.
Women Travelers -- Women should expect few problems traveling in Ireland. You may attract a little attention if you eat alone in a restaurant at night—a sight that is still relatively uncommon in Ireland outside of the major cities—but you won’t be hassled. If you drink in a pub on your own, though, expect all kinds of attention—a woman drinking alone is still considered to be “on the market,” even if she’s reading a book, talking on her cell phone to her fiancé, or doing a crossword puzzle. So be prepared to fend them off. (Irish men almost always respond well to polite rejection, though.) Take a cab home at night and follow all the usual caution you use when you travel anywhere. Essentially, don’t do anything in Ireland that you wouldn’t do at home.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.